Chennai airport runway flooded as Cyclone Michaung nears India

By Praveen Paramasivam and Jatindra Dash

CHENNAI (Reuters) -At least four people died, factories closed and the runway of one of India’s busiest airports lay submerged due to torrential rain, as two southern states were braced on Monday for the impact of a severe cyclone.

Cyclone Michaung was expected to make landfall on the coast of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh around noon on Tuesday, the country’s weather office said, with sustained winds of 90-100 kph (56-62 mph), gusting to 110 kph.

Four people had died in rain related incidents in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state, including two killed when a building wall collapsed, the state’s disaster management minister and a top official in his department said.

In Tamil Nadu capital Chennai, the state’s largest city and a major electronics and manufacturing hub, cars were swept away as floodwater flowed through the streets, while its airport, one of the busiest in India, shut operations until Tuesday morning.

Media showed pictures of grounded planes with their wheels submerged as the rain pelted down.

Taiwan’s Foxconn and Pegatron halted Apple iPhone production at their facilities near Chennai due to heavy rains, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Several areas of the city were submerged in knee-deep water and there have been power outages since Monday morning, a Reuters witness said, evoking memories of December 2015 when around 290 people died after catastrophic floods.

Authorities in both states were on high alert, evacuating thousands of people living in coastal areas, officials in both states said, with warnings issued to fishermen not to venture out to sea.

Schools, colleges, offices and banks were closed on Monday and Tuesday in at least four districts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, because of weather conditions, a government notice said.

Parts of Andhra Pradesh were likely to get more than 200 mm(8 inches) of rain over the next 24 hours, India’s weather office said.

In Andhra Pradesh, authorities had evacuated nearly 7,000 people in eight coastal districts and were preparing to evacuate a total of 28,000, depending on the cyclone’s path and severity, a senior official in the state’s disaster management department said.

At least 800 people have been evacuated so far from Bapatla, the coastal town in Andhra Pradesh where the cyclone is expected to make landfall on Tuesday, P Ranjit Basha, district collector of Bapatla, said.

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Chennai, Risika Sadam in Hyderabad, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneshwar; Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Sharon Singleton, Bernadette Baum and Alison Williams)